Those naughty Yapp Brothers (actually, proprietors Jason Yapp and Tom Ashworth are naughty stepbrothers) are well known for preying upon unwary drinks writers and leading them astray. One day I’ll tell you about that bull fight in Dax with the bottle-of-rosé-a-head breakfast, the beer and pigs’ trotter lunch and the subsequent salsa festival where — I blush to recall — the wheels came off quite dramatically and only momentum saw us through. In the meantime, we’ll stick to the wines because, wicked as they are, the boys are also well known for the wonderful vinous treasures they unearth on their travels. Not for nothing are Yapp Bros the 2019 International Wine Challenge Rhône and Languedoc-Roussillon Specialist Merchants of the Year.
Thanks to a recent trip to Alsace with these two scamps, I’ve drunk far more than my fair share of 2017 Léon Beyer ‘La Cuvée’ (1) and it’s high time you lot had a go too, if only to lighten my load. I can’t do everything you know. Besides, it’s a cracker: a blend (a rarity in Alsace) of Muscat and Riesling, it’s deliciously lemony, grapey, crisp and silky smooth with a dry finish. We’ve offered the wines of Léon Beyer before and they went in a flash. Grab this while you can. The Beyers have been making wine since 1580 and, believe me, they know what they’re about. £11.95 down from £12.95.
The 2017 Pinot Gris vom Kalkstein (2) from Pfalz in south-west Germany is simple fare and none the worse for that. Fresh and lively with a creamy texture and hints of apples’n’pears on the palate, it’s dry to off-dry with a touch of minerality and is an easy-going, crowd-pleasing aperitif. £9.50 down from £10.50.
The 2018 Viognier ‘Grès du Trias’ (3) was a tremendous hit at the autumn tasting of The Bunch — that loose coalition of fine independent wine merchants of which Yapp Bros are members — and rightly so. Viognier is one of my favourite grapes but all too often I find it flabby, dull or over the top. This, though, from the Vignerons Ardéchois co-operative, is judged to perfection. With a delectable creamy texture and plenty of peach and apricot notes, it’s intense and concentrated and remarkably sophisticated for the price. £10.75 down from £11.75.
The 2018 ‘Le Petit Caboche’ (4) which, according to my Google Translate means ‘the little noggin’, is produced by the deliciously named Jean-Pierre Boisson — talk about nominative determinism — the former long-time mayor of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. A blend of Syrah, Marsalan and — wait for it — Egiodola and Caladoc (I know, I had to look them up), it’s big and butch and no mistake. A powerful nose of fresh blackberries and blueberries is matched in the mouth by sweet, ripe fruit with pepper, herbs and spice to follow. £9.65 down from £10.65.
The 2016 Domaine Maby ‘La Fermade’ (5) is cut from the same cloth, a deft blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre from Lirac in the southern Rhône. It’s got oomph and it’s got style with rich, dark berry fruit, sturdy tannins and earthy, robust herbs and spice. If you like Châteauneuf-du-Pape but quail at Châteauneuf-du-Pape prices, you’ll love this. £13.25 down from £14.25.
Finally, the 2018 Domaine de l’Idylle Mondeuse (6) from Savoie is the antithesis of the above two reds, being light and supple, the wing three quarter — if you’ll forgive such an analogy post the Rugby World Cup — to the second row forwards of the previous two. Made from 100 per cent Mondeuse — a Savoie staple introduced to the region in mediaeval times by monks from Chartreuse — it certainly hit the spot with Mrs Ray who fair gulped it down the other night, charmed by its Pinot Noir-like elegance and its sour cherry and savoury notes. £12.95 down from £13.95.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.